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"That can be arranged."  Sandman replied to Volcanic as she took to the skies, "You want to take the stealthy approach?"  he offered to Ms. Grue as a golden sand spun out from where he cupped a hand and with a swirling motion he conjured a portal through the dreamlands to a point not far from the human, "I'm a bit more flashy."  he shrugged with a small smile as he held the portal open for her.  Once she made her way through or chose alternate transit he stepped through and let it collapse before making his way toward the mans path.

 

Giving Ms. Grue a moment to get in place he approached the mans path, on guard but not openly hostile.  "Hello these are dangerous environs for one to travel alone."  he spoke his words in the common tongue of all sentients that spent time in slumber.  

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Miss Grue

For a few seconds Daphne concentrated setting up a quick and dirty communications networks.

 

I’ve link us all together in a telepathic network, if you want to contact any of us just think the message to who you want to speak with. And it’s just surface though I promise I won’t be delving into anyones mind today.

 

With the plan in place Daphne prepared herself to go in stealthily, her features shifted back and began to phase until she was transparent. On top of that she features blurred as began to blend into the background.

 

“I figured this would be perfect for the jungle considering. thinking of an old movie she watched on her way to Earth.

“I’ll be close if things go wrong!”

 

She flew off to catch up with the man they were looking for, letting Sandman take the lead for now.

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"Right you are Volcanic!" He boomed as he bounded through the foilage, his spinning wrecking ball flattening into an axe like edge smashing and slashing through the low hanging branches as he bounded forth towards where he'd seen the tiger.

 

Suddenly he was struck with an idea and with a mighty swing of his chained axe embedding it in the base of a tree just ahead of him and pulling it through, sending it crasuing forward and into the path of the stalking big cat.

 

"Not much of a barrier but hopefully enough of a suprise to slow it down!"

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The hunter, for that was clearly what he was, didn't level his weapon at Sandman - but the look he shot his way was decidedly hostile. "...gavno on a stick, are the bloody rangers hiring supers now?" The fellow wasn't shabbily-dressed, exactly, but his gray-and-green outfit was decidedly worn down, and his rifle looked old even to Sandman and Miss Grue's relatively untrained eye. "You gonna give me back my dogs?" The hunter wasn't a young man, but he wasn't old either, somewhere in the weather-beaten middle age that outdoorsmen often get. "Or are you going to just fly me back and lock me up?" 

 

 

As Facsimile brought the tree down, the tiger in the woods showed itself long enough to leap into the air like the startled cat it was! It scrabbled its way onto the path just long enough for Volcanic and Facsimile to see it clearly. This was no regular tiger; it had managed to stay hidden in the brush despite being an albino. A big, healthy specimen, it bolted away from the fallen tree, and turned to run entirely. 

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Sandman held up a hand in a gesture of non-hostility.  "We were not sent by the rangers."  he explained somewhat guarded in his speech as he tried to make out the man's intentions.  He spared a glance for the surrounding woods hearing the crash in the distance and narrowed his eyes, as he tapped the mental link Ms. Grue had wrought,  The man is a hunter, the tiger his likely prey and not I think the threat.  he warned and focused on the hunter once more.  "We don't have any animals yours or otherwise."  he tilted his head curiously, "You're clearly poaching."  he sighed, "Not that we have the inclination to see you imprisoned over such a matter."  he tried to soothe the man as he might.  "What are you hunting?"  he asked pointedly, "It might elucidate both what happened to your dogs and more of the greater threat."  He was not certain there was a greater threat but it would at least explain their presence.

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"What the hell, I'm not afraid. Bloody tiger ate my dogs." The hunter spat on the ground, narrowing his eyes at Sandman. "So I'm gonna kill him and maybe eat his liver like my grandfather would have, because that's justice. I loved my dogs." For just a moment, the man's voice broke - he really had loved his dogs. He glared at Sandman and said, "You bloody tourists," he said, evidently a guess. "What, did you come to spend your money and see the bloody tigers? We actually have to live with those damn things!" 

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There's something rotten in tortuga, that tiger wasn't albino when I spotted it....let's see if I can fake it out.

 

he threw on his best cocky smile as he brought his axe whirling back to the ready distance.

 

"Gotcha at last...gave us quite the run around but it's all over now." He boomed at the tiger with unshakable confidence as his weapon again changed onto a wrecking ball and Began to bounce it like a soccer ball from foot to knee to knee and back to foot.

 

"You give up now and we'll put in the good word for ya but if you really wanna make my day..." a sudden kick sent kaboola racing out towards the tigers head with a rush of air only to stop short thanks to a swift upwards tug of his arm causing it to arc back towards him like a pendulum and coil itself around his arm.

 

"We can both get dolled up and dance a little first."

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The tiger bared its teeth at Facsimile, delight burning in its eyes, and began slowly advancing on him with a predator's casual ease. It was painfully clear that whatever was about to happen, the tiger was going to enjoy every minute of it. "Run home little princess," it growled in accented English. There was definitely something suspicious about this tiger... 

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Miss Grue

Daphne delved into the mind of the man getting a series of images of what had happened up to this event, even if the man was more than open with what had happened. Still by probing his mind she could provide useful information.

 

He really believe thats what happened and I don’t detect any falsehoods. As far as I can tell he really believe this is what happened.

 

She paused to think for a few seconds before adding.

 

Should we tell Team B what we found out? Or I guess maybe we’re Team B. I guess we should have figured that out in advance!

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Tiger may be a threat, hunting into the village outskirts.  Sandman warned the others as the man explained his reason for being here and hunting the beast.  "The tiger attacked your dogs?"  he asked with some surprise, "That is unusual for a solitary hunter, livestock perhaps, but hunting dogs."  he shook his head something didn't add up.  The man wasn't lying but this was outside the behavior of most large predators.  

 

"Have there been other attacks on livestock?"  he added with some curiosity this was not as straightforward a determination as it first seemed.  He glanced to Ms. Grue then back to the hunter, "Predation is usually reason for rangers to at least move the animals is it not?"

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You bet it is, sandman; it just called me a princess came the bemused reply over the mental link.

 

"Ooo; Check you out, bagpuss, just spoiling for a fight are we?" He laughed as he hefted kaboola over his shoulder "I think I might be a little too much for you though." He looked over towards volcanic with a grin.

 

"Then again there are no rules out here right? It's why you love it here...big fish in a small pond...lots of rangers to hide from retribution behind in that endangered form...you're pretty pathetic....though a tiger is quite a suitible form now I think about it."

 

He sighed as he rolled his shoulders.

 

"Because I'm going to beat you like a rug."

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The tiger leaped at Facsimile with blinding speed, moving faster and leaping further than any mundane beast should have. It smashed him to the ground with a sound like thunder, pinning him to the ground with massive paws on his shoulders with enough force that he was now lying in the middle of a crater. This was definitely not a normal tiger. The tiger glared down at him with the blue eyes of an albino, spittle dripping down on Facsimile's face along with the distinct scent of old, old blood. "Your skin," it growled before closing its jaws around his face!

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Volcanic had been noticeably quiet compared to her assigned partner as her attention was on the situation. Clever banter wasn't so much her strong suit at the best of the time and there was... something in the song of the earth below that she couldn't quite parse. It was nagging at her just as the tiger talked and then pounced. Letting her flames die out enough to drop to the earth, the elemental landed at the edge of the crater, her posture wary.  

 

"Facsimile, maybe don't taunt the god?" Volcanic suggested, the tightness of her voice coming across through the crackle of flame. Sandman. Frost isn't here so you're my mystic go to. God in the shape of a white tiger. Whatcha got?

 

"Easy, there, big guy. Spit my friend out and maybe we can talk. Why you eating dogs?"

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For all his bluser facsimile found himself truely taken of guard by the speed and strength of the tiger as it  bowled him over handily and his body pushed into a crater, his limbs flopping out from under him.

 

Only his grasp on kaboola remained anything near solid as his head span, the tigers breath stank like blood and torn flesh...really what it was supposed to he guessed, he heard muffled words coming from outside the tigers mouth, extended talking he guessed.

 

Fair enough....his approach hadn't worked that well.

 

Giving s thumbs up to volcanica general direction in acknowledgement he tapped out on the soil shortly his hand, both to indicate he was backing off to let her do her thing and partially to turn to crumbling earth so as to hopefully slip through the tigers teeth.

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Miss Grue

Thanks to the link Daphne was quickly up to speed, and she might not have the experience of some but she could see that the man was the least of the problem. Indeed he might put himself in danger against an opponent that might be better thank the little team. Though she was fairly sure that Comrade Frost wouldn’t have put them in a truly deadly situation.

 

We should hurry and help the others, I deal with the man as quickly as I can.

 

She reached into the man hypothalamus and tried to trigger a sleep response, noting the irony that she was doing this so Sandman could go off to help the others.

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Sandman watched the hunter drop to the ground asleep and nodded quickly to Ms. Grue.  "Very well then."  he replied quickly and with a wave of his hand summoned once more a portal through the realms of dream and nightmare.  Stepping through he appeared across the clearing from Volcanic.  He quickly took in the scene and let the portal slip closed as he summoned his power and sent wafting tendrils of ethereal sand to encircle the 'tiger' in an attempt to lull the beast to slumber.  "Apparently not enough"  he stated flatly.  He searched his mid for what might be behind this being current form it took a moment before it dawned on him, "The Chinese, Koreans and Japanese have the White tiger of the West though in Russian territory even in the far east it speaks to wider potential issues."  The current chinese regime may not put much stock in myth and the supernatural but anything that gave them claim on traditional chinese lands on the other hand.

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The tiger spat out Facsimile's head - which was still fortunately attached to his body. "Prey animals run. Dogs fight. That man had fight too - but now there's the four of you." The god-tiger gave a low growl like the rumbling of distant thunder. "Volcano, Dream, a thing from the stars, and my rug." He settled down on top of Facsimile, curling up like the great cat he was, and began grooming a massive paw. "This is not your land anymore than it is mine. Why do you come here?

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Facsimile gasped not because he had any particular need to breath but rather in a reflex story attempt to clear his mouth of the rank breath of the fat tiger sat on him.

 

As much as he wanted to give lip back to the tiger he thought better of it and instead opted to communicate his ire across the mental link.

 

<Urge to punch god in his smug face rising.>

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"As much as land can belong to anyone, I'm pretty sure my claim is decent anywhere that the soil listens to my requests," Volcanic said, her voice dry as she gestured, thrusting a pillar of earth up for her to take a perch on. She cocked her head to the side, the flames curling around the stone that masked her features although the gesture was thoughtful as she listened to both Sandman's words in her mind as well as the tiger's rumble. "We were sent to be tested. Though that doesn't necessarily mean fighting. Personally, never get the point of fighting just for fun. There's things I'd rather do than get knocked around for my rec time, you know."

 

Her feet hissed as she landed on the bare earth. "An' my guess is our test is less about going a round or two and more about why you're here and not on your land, doing the guardian thing, hm?"

 

She nodded to her companions as they arrived and gestured towards the woods. "I mean, we can fight, I guess, if that's what you're looking for. I just don't see a reason to do so unless you gonna keep sitting on my friend there, hey?"

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"Hm." The tiger backed up slightly, stepping off Facsimile. "All questions asked. Frost debt paid." The god gave Facsimile an unpleasantly predatory smile. "Follow me if you like, little man. We can finish this." And then, the tiger-god turned and bounded away through the forest behind them with the speed and power of the divine, leaving the prospective League members alone in the Amur woods as the sun above streamed down on them. How were they going to give that guy his dog, anyway? 

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"Yeah whatever tiger man,  I got better things to do with my day than slap fight with a god I tricked into sticking around and getting surrounded." He grumbled after the tiger as he rose to his clodhoppers and shook the dirt from his...dirt.

 

Rubbing his chin a little to try and get the feeling back in his face from the tigers admitedly bone rattling blow and twisting his core to bring the feeling back to his legs.

 

"Hit like a freight train....dame near knocked my head off." He added a little more quietly, more of an admittance to himself than anything. 

 

"But hey, could've gone worse I suppose! All limbs Still attached and I had my head In a tiger gods mouth and lived to tell the tale." He smiled at the others genuinely.

 

"Thanks for the help; on a side  note did anyone see where kaboola landed?"

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Sandman watched cautiously as Volcanic attempted a more diplomatic approach, the White Tiger at least seemed to indulge the idea which was a step in the right direction at least.  Then as abruptly as it had begun the entity took it's leave.  The Dream Guardian watched it go, "Ah about the...."  he let out a heavy sigh, "Mans dogs."  he grumbled and shook his head.

 

Sandman offered Facsimile a shrug, "Who landed?"  he was not certain the form changing mutant was all there but he seemed to have his heart in the right place at least.  With a gesture he parted the veil of sleep and opened a portal to where Mrs. Grue and the Hunter remained.  "After you?"  he suggested to Volcanic and Facsimile, "We should at least assure the man returns to his village safely."

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